Sunday, February 3, 2013

American Sitcoms vs Indian soap operas

American television shows are vibrant and try to re-invent themselves at every possible turn, there is a variety to their themes and characters. If one sitcoms deals with a bunch of nerdy scientists and their hot neighbor, the other deals with a gay couple trying to adopt a baby through a surrogate while another still has a genius doctor diagnosing and curing rare diseases. Each and every series is unique. While in India, every channel you flip through, you have the same tired old saas bahu serial, albeit different permutations and combinations that ultimately boil down to the classic Cinderella story, a tyrannical Mother in law who abuses her timid yet vivacious daughter in law. Even the reality shows on Indian television are sub par and mediocre rehashes of their American counterparts, be it Dance India Dance, Indian Idol or Bigg Boss.  American series may run the tired old gag once in a while but it still manages to make you laugh. While Indian comedy serials run the same old slapstick humour that has been done to death by their American counterparts and make it intolerable. For instance, the show ‘Jeannie Aur Juju’ is a direct rip off of ‘I dream of Genie’, the classic Sydney Sheldon sitcom from the sixties. And if you pay close attention, you’ll get to see that many of the Indian soaps, drama and comedy alike bear striking resemblances to stories that have been told in American series over the years. Though to be fair, Indian serials do adapt it to incorporate the veil and the Saas Bahu dynamic, but the rest of the plot, if there is any, lacks any modicum of originality.  American series have followed the pilot and the season format for years, a pilot, is the first episode in an American series which decides whether the series will get an order on a network or cable TV, where once a series pilot is liked by the producers, it is given a series order for a maximum of twenty to twenty five episodes. These twenty episode seasons are tight and as such keep value in quality. American serials have to do their best with each episode that they put out because they have such a narrow window to entertain, and if they don’t entertain, they’re cancelled on the spot. Not to say that Indian serials are not cancelled, they are, but they have an unbearable long line up of episodes before that happens. Indian serials don’t work as seasons, except for the reality shows that have seen so much success. See, once they follow the American season format, even unwatchable shows become bearable, like Bigg Boss for instance. The Indian television experience is still stuck in the Saas Bahu rut. Granted, Ekta Kapoor had phenomenal success with the genre, but if Indian television has to truly entertain, it really needs to move on and re-invent itself, like its American counterparts. It is no secret that the youth in our country prefers watching American shows, ask a person if they watch ‘Hitler Didi’ or ‘The Big Bang Theory’, the answer more often than nought is ‘The Big Bang Theory’. And why is that you ask, here are the reasons:

American Sitcoms                                                                    Indian Soap Opera

Original Comedy                                                                   Rehashed slapstick comedy

Relevant topics and themes                                                    Saas Bahu relations

Engaging characters                                               One dimensional and wooden characters      

Stellar writing                                                                        Sub-par rip- offs

Coherent and engaging plot and narrative                               Long winding and incoherent plots

Unbelievable (fantastical) drama            Believable and relatable, yet boring and annoying drama

Focus on crisp and tight entertainment                                    Focus on Saas Bahu dynamic

The current television scene in America is quite spectacular with series like ‘Breaking Bad’ about a chemistry professor suffering from Cancer, cooking meth to support his family and ‘Modern Family’, that takes a funny and charming look at family dynamics whether they be straight or gay. Moreover, all of these series feature breakthrough performances in writing, acting and many other fields and they are at par with their big brother, the silver screen. Which Indian serial on TV can honestly say that it can compete with a two hour bollywood movie for viewers? The answer is none. There is always room for improvement and I think Indian soap operas should occupy that room.

No comments:

Post a Comment